Tag Archives: Music

Visual experimentations with sound

The music video to ‘We Need Nothing to Collide’ by London based producer and DJ Russ Chimes is completely mesmerising. Brightly coloured strips of light stream across a background of mundane landscapes in a way that is both hypnotic and strangely unsettling. In one scene the light snakes out of a dark open doorway, like an ominous yet seductive threshold to an alternative world. It’s fitting with the track, which possesses the infectious beat of house music and the increasingly unnerving build of repetitive sounds and lyrics. It sets you in a trance. Speaking of which, I think I’m going to watch it again.

Watch it for yourselves here:

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Travellin’ Man: Jack Steadman, Bombay Bicycle Club

The frontman talks to Millie Walton about his love of travelling, and how the band owe more just than their name to the city of Mumbai as he shares some of his travel-snaps

What would So Long, See You Tomorrow, taste like if it was a dish? I ask Bombay Bicycle Club’s frontman Jack Steadman. “Fish tacos” he says, chewing the question with more relish than I’d anticipated. “You’d probably put lemon on your tacos, so it would be quite citrusy. Maybe the fish is battered, so it’s got a bit of bite to it” he enthuses. “Actually, I could really do with some fish tacos now…” Not the greasy kind, Jack clarifies, more the “Refreshing, very summery, quite clean [variety]. I think the production of the album is like that, it’s not really rough around the edges.”

Photo courtesy of Jack Steadman


“I liked being anonymous and alone in Mumbai, and everything around me moving on fast-forward”


It’s lunchtime in September and we’re sitting in a hotel room in Soho, which is not as seedy, nor as greasy, as it sounds. It’s been a warm month in the capital, which has extended the summer, and the band have played a string of festivals and gigs in support of the dance inspired Bollywood romance album, So Long… Infused by the colourful cultures and climates of Mumbai, Istanbul and Amsterdam where most of the ten tracks where conceived, the album is a huge leap from the soft, lulling sounds of their previous albums, which were more comparable to warm cups of melted chocolate than the fiery spice of So Long…

The shift was a risk, but it paid off. Just days after its release in February, the album reached number one in UK charts.

“When we started playing at the beginning of the year people were enjoying it, but as soon as the summer started and we started playing festivals, it really clicked. We made an album that’s completely suited to playing outside in the sun.”

As with all of the band’s records, Jack wrote this one alone. But unlike previous albums, he laid out the tracks during his travels around the globe, starting off in a remote cottage in the Dutch countryside where he lived with a local family and set up a studio in their barn. “It worked out really well – the guy was not only hugely passionate about music, but also about sound. He had all these speakers and hi-fis that he’d collected which I could use.”

After Holland, Jack went to Istanbul, where again he found a family – “with a little barn” – who offered him board and a place to work. “The guy I was staying with was the head of the village. It was crazy, a tiny Turkish village. One day, I said I needed a drum kit and he drove me to this travellers’ settlement outside of town. He said ‘The local community has ostracised these people and they live here now on this campsite, but they have a wedding band and he’s agreed to lend you his drum kit. But not before you spend the night here and meet everyone.’

They put on a concert for me and there was a guy playing old gypsy folk songs on the violin and there was this nine-year-old kid prodigy who was playing the clarinet. It was the most surreal couple of weeks!” he says of the experience.

recording-studio-Holland Jack Steadman

It was during a month Jack spent in Mumbai that the album really started to come together: “I got so much done and I was just in a really good place. I fell in love with the city. I woke up every morning feeling great and excited to be there, which is the perfect mind set to be writing music in.”

What was so inspiring about the city? “The food, the music, the people. Mumbai is this sort of crumbling old colonial city that is so small, yet it can manage to fit a billion people into it. It’s insane,” he rushes. I posit that it must have been stressful, being in such a densely packed place. “No” Jack says, shaking his head with a smile, “it was the opposite. I’m a big city guy. I liked being anonymous and alone in Mumbai, and everything around me moving on fast-forward. I made sure I took the train everyday to the studio rather than a cab because I loved them being so packed that I had to hang out the doorway, and I had the breeze in my hair. It’s the only way you can stay cool because it’s so hot, it’s like the only air conditioning you get.”

Jack and bandmate, image Jack Steadman

Above: Jack with bassist, Ed Nash
The music video to Feel was shot in Mumbai and takes the form of a mini-Bollywood movie – an idea that that bassist Ed Nash and Jack dreamt up on a trip to Australia some years earlier. “We were in this very authentic Indian canteen which had TV screens everywhere showing Bollywood movies. We were watching them and thinking, one day we’ve got to make one of these. Suddenly, this song came along that was just dying for this video, but there was a lot of hesitation because of our band name. It’s such a cynical country we live in, a lot of people were obviously going to be like, ‘That’s ridiculous, some kid went on his gap year and was suddenly really into Bollywood’. We just take all that with a pinch of salt because I think it’s a hilarious video and the song makes you feel really good.”

“A lot of people might have got the impression that I was going to ‘find myself’ or going to specifically try and write different sounding music…”


What’s it like writing in foreign studios I ask him. “When I’m in London there’s such a blurred line between me just hanging out in the studio and actually having to work. When you go away for the specific reason to write, you feel stupid just hanging around so you’re a lot more driven. That was the entire reason I started going away. In fact, that’s probably quite important to explain because a lot of people might have got the impression that I was going to ‘find myself’ or going to specifically try and write different sounding music… It was to go and have that sense of purpose.”

Did he find it difficult to return home after such a productive period abroad, I ask: “Everywhere I go after about three or four weeks I start missing London buses, rain, and sarcasm” he laughs.  “I really long for it, especially when I’m in places like the States where it’s really hot. I just want it to be green and wet and cold, and I want somebody to be mean to me, and not to just smile all the time!” he jokes. More seriously, he admits, “When I am at home I get restless again. I’m definitely a grass-is-greener type of person, which is annoying. It’s not healthy in any aspect of your life.”

We both agree on this point, but I can’t help feeling that in Jack’s case, it’s not that unhealthy. In fact, it seems to be the vital component of his creativity and success.

Words Millie Walton
Images courtesy of Jack Steadman

This article was originally written for and published by PORT magazine: http://bit.ly/1BajNwt

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Zulu Winter – Heavy Rain

I normally shy away from writing about my family’s triumphs mainly because it can come across as a kind of arrogance, boasting about my brilliant genes and all that but also because there’s that whole issue of bias. Obviously, it’s hard not to be biased as a proud and awe-filled younger sister, but I’m going to allow myself one gushing post about my brother’s band, Zulu Winter’s newest music video ‘Heavy Rain’ because, quite frankly, it’s too good to ignore.

Filmed by the brilliant and immensely talented director, David Higgs the video exploits the rosy light of sunrise to create scenes so beautiful and eerie that they’re really quite mesmerising. Throw in some peculiar dance moves, a bit of rolling around in the grass, hallucinogenic repetitions and a pony and it all gets rather surreal.

The track’s not bad either. Well done bro.

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Combating delirium with Tropicalia

If I haven’t mentioned it enough already, I’m currently drowning in deadlines. Dissertation is due on friday (lord help me). My days have become robotic cycles of waking, eating, working, sleeping with the occasional glass of wine throw in here and there. It helps with the stress. Calms the nerves. Anyway as you can probably tell times have become pretty desperate and I am starting to question my very sanity. Today, I spent a large part of my day in the library staring at the backs of people’s heads to see if they would turn around, which most of them did embarrassingly.  I find music is the best cure for times like these. Sadly, I can’t work and listen at the same time – my brain requires complete silence or it gets very muddled – so evenings are reserved for music. I head up stairs, light a few candles, smother myself in tinted moisturiser (don’t judge, we’re getting ominously closer to bare legs season) and sit listening to my records whilst it sinks in. It’s become like a form of meditation. My favourite record at the moment is ‘Tropicalia’ – a christmas present from my brother and my current life line. The record’s strap-line is ‘a Brazilian revolution in sound’ so as you can imagine it’s got some pretty fun tracks. I’m listening to it as I write this post and I can already feel it working it’s magic.

Here are a few of the record’s finest…

Gilberto Gil – Bat Mucumba

Jorge Ben – Take It easy, My Brother Charles

Os Mutantes – Quem Tem Medo de Brincar

 

 

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The loveable eccentric: Cosmo Sheldrake

I haven’t really been keeping up with my music lately because of looming university finals, but I allowed myself a little breather today and fell in love with Cosmo Sheldrake. I’ve heard one or two of his songs before but they never really grabbed me. If I’m being honest I thought he was a little odd and not in the cool, trendy way but odd as in peculiar. But I was wrong. He is odd (the name sort of says it all) but that’s  part of the charm and actually he really couldn’t be any cooler. His music is all about experimentation with the environment (in one of my favourite videos he chases after a beetle with some sort of sound device), playing with objects and space to produce unusual and unique sounds. ‘Rich’ featuring Andrea Vargas starts off with what sounds like a cat purring… It keeps you on your toes and the music is just great. Think banjos, didgeridoos, whistles, bongos, keyboards, improv vocals., robots, beetles, washing machines. You know, that sort of vibe.

Anyway, check him out. He’s set to release a debut single in April, 2014 and he’s just all round a pretty inspirational guy.

Here’s a vid of the cat purring song, performed live in a pig sty:

And ‘Prefusify’ performed live in a laundrette:

 

 

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The Return of Klaves

I really should be writing essays rather than blogging, but this just couldn’t wait… At the beginning of this year I wrote a very excitable post about Polish producer, Klaves just after he’d leaked a free download of his track ‘So Fine’ and last night I stumbled across another one of his musical freebies. This one is just as jazzy and melodic as the last packed with airy percussion, bursts of entrancing wordless vocals and tropical sounding beats – a tribal remix of sorts. It’s hard not to love.

And here it is… ‘Return’ by Klaves:

Check out his facebook page for regular updates and info on how to download: https://www.facebook.com/klavesmusic?fref=ts

 

 

 

 

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One to watch: Francis Lung

Francis Lung’s (aka Tom McClung, ex member of WU LYF) debut single, “A Selfish Man” is one of my favourite tracks right now. Partly because it’s kicks off with what sounds like some good old fashioned finger clicking, partly because it makes me think of summer strolling, but mainly because it’s just so jazzy and so laid back at the same time. It’s the sort of song you just close your eyes and sway to. I’m doing it right now as I write this post…

francis lung 1source

Francis’s tumblr tells us “the album is currently being recorded. it’s currently doing ma head in. it should be done in about 3 days, it probably won’t be. STAY TUNED! DON’T TELL YOUR PARENTS!”

I’m excited.

Give it a listen and see what you think:

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Interview with Akio Suzuki

Taking his lead from nature, the Japanese sound artist on his latest performance at the North East festival, which sees him finding ‘sound spots’ around Newcastle city centre

AV-Festival-Extraction_Solo-performance-2014_Akio-Suzuki_2_photo-credit-Janette-Scott

Akio Suzuki began experimenting with sound in the 1960s and is now recognised as a forerunner of the international sound-art scene. Despite of his numerous exhibitions and performances across the globe, Suzuki is a modest man modest who lives a humble life closely connected to nature. His gentle personality is reflected in the meditative nature of his work, which encourages listeners and viewers to experience an alternative perspective of the world.

This month, Akio Suzuki brings his work to Newcastle upon Tyne for AV Festival 14: Extraction. The biannual festival runs throughout March, and marks Suzuki’s first major solo exhibition in the UK featuring new work inspired by his visit to the North East coast. In keeping with the central focus of the festival, a re-imagining of the geologic through the exploration of the earth’s raw materials, Suzuki has created original artworks, both visual and aural, that make use of stones taken from the local pebbled beaches.

AV-Festival-Extraction_Oto-Date-2014_Akio-Suzuki_1_photo-credit-Janette-Scott

Millie Walton: When did you first begin experimenting with sound?

Akio Suzuki: Originally I was studying architecture, but somehow I gave that up and became a sound artist. I’m not really sure how it happened! [Laughs] As an architect I was always working in a space and developed a fascination with the relationship between sound and space – that’s really the foundation of my art.

Suzuki-photo-by-Atsush-Koyama-KP9-1

Millie: All of your sound is created using instruments you have constructed by hand, the most significant of these being ‘Analapos’… how was the idea conceived?

Akio: I didn’t learn about sound in school, but from nature. Nature was my teacher. I would immerse myself in the surrounding environment and play around with natural sound phenomenons. For example, I would go to the mountainside or shout across the valley and listen to the way the sound came back. My interest in natural echoes then led me to start thinking about an instrument that could also create that kind of sound.

At the time I was collecting lots of junk in my studio, pieces of metal I found on the streets, and then one day when I was playing around with a metal can I attached a metal coil, and found that together they could create an echo effect similar to that of nature. So it was really by chance that I conceived the basic idea of analapos. I am always searching for these chance encounters and moments in life. It’s a bit like chemistry between objects, similar to that between a man and a woman. Sometimes there’s chemistry, sometimes there isn’t. If you just take a metal can it doesn’t make a sound but if you just attach a coil it creates a sound.

Millie: In the late 80s, for the ‘Space in the Sun’ project, you spent sunrise to sunset listening to the natural sounds of your surroundings. What was the purpose of this project?

Akio: I had no intention to become a performer, but in the 70s I somehow became one through people requesting live performances and exhibitions. ‘Space in the Sun’ was really about returning to my starting place, which was nature. I began learning from nature not as an artist, but just as a human being, and I wanted to be reminded of who I really was. I was listening to ‘La Mer’ a composition by the French classical composer Claude Debussy and I formed this idea that to create the piece, Debussy had sat on the beach for a day listening to the ocean. Debussy was actually inspired by Japanese print, but I was very moved by the idea that I had imagined so I started to build two red brick walls. It took two years to build the walls, which I then sat between for one day listening to the sounds of nature. In that time I didn’t create any other artworks but just channeled all of my energy into this one project. It was a way for me to reconnect with nature.

Millie: The AV Festival is very much centred around natural resources and landscapes this year. How is this theme explored in your solo exhibition at the Globe Gallery, and live performances?

Akio: I really love stones. I have a big selection of stones collected from beaches all around the world. When we [Aki and I] visited Newcastle last July, we went to a local beach and collected specific stones for the exhibition. I found ‘stone-flutes’, stones with natural holes in them, which I will be playing in our duo performance.

Millie: Your exhibition Na Ge Ka Ke meaning ‘to cast, to throw’ reflects on the general idea behind your artwork but also includes a collection of installations that are ‘of sound but are soundless’…

Akio: All of the pieces make sound but I have arranged them at the point before sound, the point at which I imagine the sound. I want visitors to imagine the sound before they actually hear it.

AV-Festival-Extraction_Oto-Date-2014_Akio-Suzuki_3_photo-credit-Janette-Scott

Millie: This interest in provoking other’s imaginations seems to be at the centre of your work: tell me about your oto-date project, which invites people to explore their cities in unique ways.

Akio: When I was in my 20s, I started walking around various cities looking for echo points and specific locations, which have interesting sound phenomenons. It started off as a personal project, a ‘Self-Study Event’ before it developed into something I could share with the public. On our visit to Newcastle last summer, I walked around the city exploring the different sounds, but I didn’t actually choose the spots for the oto-date project until returning this time. Newcastle is a great oto-date city because the geography and architecture is very complex. Especially around the centre, there are lots of layers of stairs, big wide buildings and unusual sound spaces.

Akio Suzuki’s solo exhibition runs at Globe Gallery for the duration of the festival (until 31 March) along with the oto-date project. To find out more about the festival, and the performances, click here

Words: Millie Walton

Translation: Aki Onda

Photography: Janette Scott, courtesy AV Festival

This article was originally written for and published by PORT Magazine: http://www.port-magazine.com/music/av-festival-14-extraction-akio-suzuki/

To properly understand Akio’s art watch this short film of him exploring the acoustic of the Walthamstowe Marshes railway bridge in London:

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One to watch: Arthur Beatrice

Arthur Beatrice are an East-London based band fronted by Orlando Leopard (what a name) who’s deep resonating vocals are reminiscent of King Krule and the Wild Beasts (which in my books is no bad thing). Their fluid harmonies and curious interludes have quickly caught the attention of the media, pushing them perhaps prematurely into the limelight. Despite their studious looks and almost corporate image (their website resembles that of an upmarket designer: http://online-presence.info/), all four members are under the age of 23 and have found themselves a pretty sweet deal with their own label Open Assembly Rooms and a savvy management team.

Arthur BeatriceSource

Though the world of music is notoriously unstable the kids seem to have it all sussed out: middle-aged man meets hip hop revival. Elliot Barnes (drums) told the Guardian that  “We’re like the Smiths meets gangsta rap!” In reality, they couldn’t be further from gangsta rap, but there’s time for the self-delusion and pretension to fade. At any rate, ‘Grand Union’ is a hell of a track. The more you listen the better it gets.

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New Year, New Song: Klaves ‘So Fine’

I may be a little behind the times in discovering this gem of a song, but for those of you who are similarly out of ‘the loop’ get excited. ‘So Fine’ is like a party under the sea.

Klaves is the moniker adopted by 21 year old polish musician, Mikolaj Gramowsky who caused quite a sensation when he released his house EP ‘At Dawn Again’. He’s not your standard producer of house music though, preferring simplicity to heavy bass and intense drops. His music is probably what you’d listen to after a night out rather than in a club. Listening to it is sort of cleansing in a way. You feel light, fresh and ready to go again. The perfect tonic for that New Year’s eve hangover.

Get your mitts on a free and legal download from the Klaves facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/klavesmusic/app_220150904689418 

Also keep your eye on his soundcloud for regular releases: https://soundcloud.com/klavesmusic

Happy New Year y’all!

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